Lessons Learned From Jamaica

Falmouth Jamaica   We returned to Miami from Jamaica last night after a three day trip where we visited crew member clients in Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios. The weather was fantastic and the Jamaican people were warm and friendly, as usual. It is always delightful to travel to Montego Bay, which is an easy one and one-half hour flight from Miami.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas was in port when we visited Falmouth on Tuesday. The Freedom of the Seas and the Navigator of the Seas arrived on Wednesday morning. On these two days, over 10,000 people arrived on cruise ships from South Florida but you would never know it walking around the town.   

One of the problems we have witnessed with the "revitalization" of Falmouth is that the cruise line loads up its cruise passengers onto pre-booked and pre-paid excursion buses within the gates of the port and then sends them out of town to Ocho Rios or Dunn's River Falls.  We witnessed few passengers actually walking in to the town and buying souvenirs or eating in the local restaurants.

It would be quite easy to have the passengers board the buses at a central location in the town, say at the roundabout and then head off on their excursions. This way, they would be encouraged to shop in Falmouth, both before and after the bus excursions, as they walk to and from the cruise ships. But as matters now stand, the passengers are isolated from the local vendors in Falmouth. The cruise line Falmouth Jamaica  wants to capture as much of the passengers money as possible and seems to prefer that the passengers buy the goods and services offered by the cruise line sponsored vendors behind the fence erected between the ship and the local vendors.

Falmouth will never be truly revitalized until the cruise passengers turn into tourists who actually walk into and support the people of Falmouth.

In Ocho Rios, we met with approximately 50 crew members and former crew members working for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Disney cruise lines. It was a record attendance for us. We met people who traveled from Negril, Port Antonio, Mandeville, and Kingston.   

We met in the famous "No Problem Room" at the Hibiscus Lodge.  I took a photo of my partners Lisa and Jonathan meeting with a client whose cruise ship related problems we helped solve.  

One of the most painful things we observed, and experienced, was when a crew member with a serious injury or medical ailment appeared at our meeting but had not contacted an attorney for four or five years. None of the crew members we met understood that there is a three year limitations for bringing claims against the cruise lines. Some of the men and women we met had worked for over two decades in the cruise industry and were left with serious injuries to their backs. Yet after returning home they did not understand that they had only three years to make a claim.

Most of the injured crew members we met have had no medical treatment arranged whatsoever by the cruise lines. Many were forced to pay for their own medical visits in the hope that the cruise line No Problem Room - Ocho Rio Jamaicawould reimburse them. All of this violates maritime law. Unlike U.S. passengers who if injured during a cruise receive great medical care back in their home states, the Jamaican crew members we meet invariably are still suffering with no medical care months and months after their shipboard accidents and injuries.

Jamaica remains a country where many cruise lines believe that they can send their injured crew members and then look the other way even after the employees served faithfully on cruise ships for over 20 years.  

 

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

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Comments (6) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Will B. - December 14, 2012 11:21 AM

Aren't most of the "low level" cruise employees actually contractors through a placement firm? Is the cruise line required to cover the medical you speak of or is it the responsibility of the recruiter?

(I'm not sure, that's why I'm asking.)

Jim Walker - December 14, 2012 12:47 PM

Will:

The recruiters are just local hiring agents and not the actual employers. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Disney and other lines are required to provide the necessary medical treatment to the crew when they become ill or injured.

Regards Jim Walker

Tim - December 14, 2012 1:27 PM

Can the local hiring agents provide this information to prospective employees or are they too closely tied to, and controlled by, the cruise lines? I am very sympathetic to the plight of cruise line workers to the point it may impact my decision to take future cruises. Having recently found your blog AND recently taken a RCI cruise, I will certainly give consideration to not cruising with them since they seem to be the worst of the worst. Its a shame because they do have a good product from my perspective. How can U.S. law be changed to impact foreign flagged cruise lines?

kevin chambers - January 21, 2013 11:30 AM

keep up the good work sir ur the best.

Mitch Oberfield - June 2, 2013 11:01 AM

Hi Jim,

In response to your point about Falmouth revitalization outside of the port, I wanted to throw in my $0.02 having just returned from a cruise that stopped there. My girlfriend and I decided not to book a tour and just walk around. The shopping in the pier seemed contrived and inauthentic. We noticed that most of the products being sold were made in China and everything had an overly commercial feel. We decided to leave the pier and find a more authentic experience, but immediately found ourselves feeling incredibly unsafe and uncomfortable. As you leave the pier and head to the main strip, you are bombarded by merchants trying to sell you anything and everything under the sun from their little shanties. On top of that, there are cab drivers / tour operators trying to hound you into their cars enticing you with pictures of nice beaches. We didn't know who to trust or what was safe and were overwhelmed by the pushiness of everyone. We kept walking beyond the main strip and immediately felt out of place. There was nothing that made us feel like tourists were welcome or encouraged to be there. I remember telling my girlfriend that I didn't know why we were walking here, there's clearly nothing for tourists in this area and wanted to return to the pier.

It's not that we're not adventurous. We've just heard some negative things about Jamaica and the setup by the locals beyond the pier did not encourage us to explore further, buy local souvenirs, or eat / drink at local establishments... which is honestly what we wanted to do.

Peter - January 26, 2014 1:37 PM

Having been to Falmouth twice last year, it's much nicer to jump on an excursion bus than spend any time in Falmouth. The local people there are so overbearing and in your face that its not an enjoyable place to visit. You can't even walk 3 feet before the next one is on you. I get they rely on the money of visitors and cruise ships, but being a pain in the butt isn't the way.

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